In response to reports earlier today that Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick has reached a deal with prosecutors and will plead guilty to crimes associated with dog fighting, the American Kennel Club® has issued the following statement from AKC's Chairman of the Board, Ron Menaker:
“While we are pleased to hear that the Vick case is being settled through the criminal justice system, we remain concerned that the punishment will be inadequate considering the heinous nature of the crimes. Furthermore, we hope that the National Football League will continue its own investigation into claims that dog fighting is commonplace among players. The League has an opportunity—and a moral obligation—to investigate and punish other NFL players who may have knowledge of, or who may be involved in, these atrocious acts of animal cruelty. The AKC constituency, NFL fans, and the dog-loving American public will be watching closely.
This story is distressing and brings up intense emotions in all of us, yet there is a potential 'silver lining.' It is creating a national dialogue about dog fighting, illegal in all 50 states and a felony in 48, yet often at the bottom of the priority list in terms of crimes that authorities investigate and pursue. Hopefully the Vick case will serve as a beacon and bring more forces to bear on preventing and prosecuting this behavior.
Another issue which this case brings to light is breed-specific legislation. As municipalities around the country seek to address the issue of dangerous dogs, they often turn to this type of narrow and misguided legislation which bans the ownership of certain breeds. AKC, along with many other respected animal welfare organizations, has been beating the drum for many years about the inefficacy of this type of legislation. As demonstrated in the Vick case, those perpetuating these crimes are not your average law-abiding pet owners. They use dogs as menacing weapons, as entertainment in a blood sport, and as a prop to sustain their “bad boy” image. Breed-specific legislation spreads the dangerous misconception that the dogs are at fault. The reality is that they are the victims, manipulated by 'owners' to fulfill malicious purposes.
On behalf of all dog lovers, I urge both law enforcement authorities and law makers to recognize the many lessons that can be learned from this tragic case.”